A controversial law was adopted in Belarus in 2006. The Presidential Decree #18 “Towards additional measured of the state protection of the children from adverse families” was meant to prevent so called “social orphanage”, that is the poor conditions of life for children whose parents neglect their parental duties. Unfortunately, instead of offering early family/parents/ children support and preventive measures of parental neglect the law opened up the floor for sever control, punishment, and disciplining of the unwanted parents.
One of the measures introduced by the law was a procedure that allowed social services to take away children from the “unfortunate” families as a result of a simple and fast procedure. Parents had to pay for the children stay in the orphanage (about 80-100 euro per a child/ a month). Parents at the same time were severely restricted in their rights, including forced labour, obligatory reporting to and control by the police, forced eviction and resettlement to a lower quality housing (not necessarily in the same geographical location) to generate funds to cover the cost of their children being kept in orphanages. At the same time, it is very hard to appeal the decision of the social services that made a decision to seize the children. The courts could be continued by years.
Experts from “Our House” note that the Decree is far from being effective tool of supporting children and/ or families. It contains a number of gaps and contradictions. For example, it is apparent that taking children away is not a way to prevent parental neglect, lack of the appeal procedure, as well as of the clear definitions help only corruption and power abuse. One of the criteria of the socially dangerous conditions under which children cannot live is “immorality” of the parents; the immorality is never defined and turns into an effective weapon against everything unwanted and uncomfortable in/by sexist, homophobic and politically intolerant society such a Belarus. In fact, practice demonstrates that nowadays any attempt of a mother to express her disagreement or dissatisfaction with such state bodies as social service, police, prosecutors’ office, educational or any other state structures may end up with her children being taken away. There is an especially worrying tendency for socially and politically active women with children to encounter this sort of danger.
The landscape of the human rights when it comes to women and children in Belarus is worrying. This newly found mechanism of control of active women via putting them in danger of losing their to the cruel reality of an orphanage proves to be very powerful and is used time and time again against female activists all over the country.
This is a new kind of repressions against women but also against all citizens. “Our House” is convinced that when the mechanism of punishment of active women through denying them their motherhood state sponsored kidnapping of children will become normalized and will be used against the civil society.
According to CRIN Belarus is on the 137th position in the world regarding the efficacy of using such instrument of protection of the rights of the child as judicial system and courts in particular. Despite Belarus ratified the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the norms of the Convention were not included in the national legislation of Belarus in the full volume. Only children over fourteen years old can bring a case in court and participate in the court hearing acting via their representatives. There are no specialised courts, no independent human rights body for children, no clear procedures for children participating in the court hearing as a witness. All this, according to CRIN, is an obstacle for the full implementation of the rights of the child.
Moreover, there is a list of medical conditions which include cancer, TB, diabetes, poor sight, hypertonia, asthma, etc. which are the basis for children to be taken away from parents. If this was meant as support to unwell parents who have rights to reject their parenthood rights in exchange of ensuring their kids to the care of the state free of charge, in practice it is a basis for parents’ and children’s rights violation. Effectively, any parent with a serious illness risks to lose their children.
Unfortunately, lack of interest to this problem from the side of human rights activists and of the civil society, resulted in a tragic situation of suicides committed by mothers and children, as well as infanticide and paedocide for a fear that children will be taken away and put in orphanages.
These tragedies could have been avoided if parents’ rights were protected from the state and if parents could fight for their rights in courts or by any other legal means. Broad definitions offered by law lead to the extremes of either lethal cases when children were neglected by parents unnoticed by anybody or when children were taken merely because parents did not have enough money to pay for their accommodation on time or complaint to the quality of the school food. Moreover, children became a way to blackmail socially and politically active parents (mostly mothers) and to punish them for their activism.
International Centre for civil initiatives “Our House” declare to preparation the monthly monitor the situation with women’s rights and the rights of the child in the Republic of Belarus in order to prepare the an alternative UN report on the violation of the rights of women and children. We strongly think that the situation is dangerous for our children and would like to ask international attention to the problem in Belarus.
We are looking for partners for the work in the direction…
ICCI “Our House”